Driverless cars prepare to hit the highway

Google's self driving car

WASHINGTON, July 30, 2014 — The United Kingdom has announced that it will be testing driverless cars on roadways next year starting in January.

Officials say that the trial program could take up to three years, taking place in three different cities.

Sensors and cameras will guide the cars. This technology already exists. Currently, there are cars that provide automatic acceleration or automatic breaking, but the big break through to make the driverless car possible will be linking these technologies up with satellites.

Through the satellites, entire fleets of vehicles will be able to be managed in a practical and efficient way.

Two types of tests will take place during the program.

One will allow a driver to take control of the car if necessary and the second will allow a vehicle to operate without any driver in the car.

British officials say that the driverless cars could improve safety and traffic flow.

Similar technologies are already being developed in the United States and Japan.

In the United States, California, Nevada and Florida have all approved tests of driverless cars on open roads. The Google driverless car has driven 300,000 miles on California roads already.

Last year in Japan, Nissan held the first ever driverless road test on a highway.

One major concern about autonomous cars is the number of other cars on the roadways.

One of the leading innovations to deal with the overcrowding is Lidar, a system that measures lasers bouncing off reflective surfaces to capture information about millions of points surrounding the vehicle every second. This technology is already being used to create online maps.

Another technology is “computer vision”.  This uses software to make sense of full circle images captured by cameras attached to the vehicle, which can warn of pedestrians, cyclists and other objects that could be in the car’s path.

This past May, Google unveiled plans to manufacture 100 self-driving vehicles. The prototype unveiled included no steering wheel or peddles only a stop/start button.

Many technology and automotive firms see this as the wave of the future and have expressed interest.

Some of the companies that are pursuing the self driving technology are; Nissan, GM, BMW, Mercedes and the Chinese search engine company, Baidu.

A few weeks ago, The Guardian obtained an internal report of the FBI stating that driverless cars could create additional problems for law enforcement.

The report focused on the ability, with a driverless car, for a criminal driver to fire weapons from vehicles easier since they would not have to be concerned with driving the car.

Although the report did also note that emergency vehicles such as ambulances police cars and fire rescue would be helped by the automated vehicles as distractions and poor judgment that often lead to collisions would be eliminated.


The Associated press contributed to this report

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